|14.10.2016, 14:00||◄ last page|
GROUP A PREVIEW: Former winners Buducnost will start as strong favourites against Metz in their opening EHF Champions League game of the season, while Norway’s Glassverket will get a first taste of top-level action when they visit Thüringer HC.
Buducnost set to come storming back as Glassverket make their debut
An exciting new season in the Women’s EHF Champions League offers a pair of entertaining encounters in Group A, where twice former winners Buducnost are chasing several milestones in the section’s curtain-raising game against French rivals Metz.
In the other match, Glassverket will be an unknown quantity when they face Thüringer HC, as the Norwegian side will celebrate their first appearance in Europe’s elite club competition.
Buducnost will start as clear favourites against the French side, who reached the main round in the 2014/15 season, but the home team are also chasing several records which they are all but bound to break this season.
One milestone will surely be reached against Metz, as Buducnost are only seven goals away from scoring an impressive total of 5,400, second only to Slovenia’s Krim Mercator who are 16 shy of reaching the 5,500 figure.
With a tally of 252 points in the EHF Champions League, Buducnost are also just three behind overall leaders Hypo Niederösterreich and will surely leapfrog the Austrian powerhouse, who are not playing on the biggest stage this season.
Fans who throng the iconic Moraca Hall, the home of many a memorable encounter in Europe’s premier club competition for women, will see a very familiar face among Metz players when the two teams meet.
The French team’s goalkeeper, Marina Rajcic (pictured above from her time with Buducnost), spent seven trophy-laden years at Buducnost before she joined Metz at the start of last season and she will surely be fired-up against her former team.
Metz will have high hopes of reaching their first-ever EHF FINAL4 as four of their players were part of the French team that won the silver medal at the Olympic games in Rio.
Coach Emmanuel Mayonnade will also be highly motivated to prove his worth in Europe after steering the club to the French league title only five months after he took over in January.
It will be the ninth meeting between the two sides in Europe, with Buducnost winning seven of the previous eight encounters.
Metz’s only success was a 31:30 home win over Buducnost in the 2002/03 Champions League group stage, and they last played each other in the 2011/12 main round, with the Montenegrin giants winning both games en route to their maiden title in the competition.
The expectably tough journey starts at Thüringer HC and although the Norwegian side will come as an unknown quantity to Germany’s top club, the home side will see this as a must-win game in their bid to reach the main round for the fourth successive season.
Unlike Glassverket, who have forever been overshadowed by mighty Larvik on the home front in Norway, Thüringer have been a pillar of German club handball for some time and they clinched the league title in dramatic fashion last term, beating closest rivals Leipzig in the last round of matches.
However, many of Thüringer’s top players, namely Danick Snelder, Sonja Frey and Svenja Huber, have left for pastures new, hence EHF EURO silver medallist Macarena Aguilar will be expected to pull the strings this season in a revamped outfit.
“We need time for the team to blend due to the transition, but our primary goal is to reach the next stage,” said Thüringer’s team manager Maik Schenk in the build-up to the season, making it clear that advancing to the Main Round was a minimum requirement.
Schenk’s Glassverket counterpart Erik Øie was realistic about his club’s prospects in their debut season.
“We want to gain international experience and try to get one or two points on home court,” he said after the Drammen-based club achieved their biggest success.
TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic / br